Tulsi Gabbard's Cult Tied to "Billion Dollar Drug Empire"-- Funded Taliban
HSTA Refuses to Certify Union Election after Insurgents Win
We Have Met the Enemy, and He Is Us
Rail Tax Hike: "The House talk was theater"
MW: House and Senate bills on extending the excise tax also differed. The House opted for a reduction of .25 percent; the Senate for the current .5 per- cent for five more years, giving it life until 2027. House members argued that the proposed cut was necessary to put pres- sure on the city to assume more of the financial burden of rail.
The bill that emerged from the conference committee looked like the Senate’s. Said a Capitol regular: “The extension of the rail surcharge at .5 for 5 was always going to pass. The House talk was theater.”
Speaking of theater, Gov. David Ige now gets the bill. During the session, Ige said he wasn’t sure it was yet time to extend the surcharge. Now he says he will study it before signing, allow it to become law without his signature, or veto.
The governor will do one of the first two.
read ... Theater
County GE Tax Hike Will Result in More TAT Cuts
MN: ...the general excise tax is regressive, which means it imposes a greater burden on those who have less of an ability to pay. The tax also applies to the sale of basic necessities such as food and medical services, items that are exempt from sales tax in most other states.
Instead of the surcharge for Neighbor Islands, I firmly believe that increasing the counties' share of the transient accommodations tax (also known as the TAT or hotel room tax) is more appropriate. Maui County's share has been capped at $23.2 million, yet we generate over $120 million annually through this tax....
the State of Hawaii has increased its share of the TAT distribution by $179 million since 2007, or 2,161.7 percent, while the counties' share has increased by a meager 2.2 percent.
While the state has taken a greater share of the TAT, the cost of core services provided to our residents and visitors by counties has continued to increase.
On average, costs for core services in Maui County from 2007 to 2014 increased 33 percent, or around $27 million. Yet Maui County has received an increase in TAT revenue of only $508,623, or 2.2 percent, over the same period.
An ongoing concern is that if we take advantage of the GET surcharge, then we will lose the counties' share of the TAT. In fact, legislators have shared with me that if the counties' act on the GET surcharge, they intend to take away our share of the TAT.
read ... Costs
Kouchi: New Senate President a 'Good old Boy'
SA: Sen. Ron Kouchi won his first election at the age of 24, and today, the state Senate’s soft-spoken, immensely articulate new leader is enjoying a reputation as one of the Legislature’s “good old boys” in state politics....
Personally, Kouchi is a self-described “Southern Democrat” who voted against both same-sex marriage and civil unions in past legislative sessions, but supported raising the state minimum wage.
He formerly worked for an insurance company and is now community relations director for Garden Isle Disposal. The firm’s president is Kouchi’s brother.
“Ron is a very, very smart guy; he has learned a lot politically from people like (former Kauai state Rep.) Dennis Yamada, when he was majority leader,” said state Rep. James Tokioka.
“He worked on the Council with Tony Kunimura, Jeremy Harris and JoAnn Yukimura. He has been a major part of government on Kauai for 30 years,” Tokioka said.
Kouchi left the County Council to run unsuccessfully for Kauai mayor in 2002. He made it back to the Council, and when there was a vacancy in the Senate, former Gov. Linda Lingle appointed him to that body in 2010.
Tokioka said losing the mayor’s race was a turning point for Kouchi.
“That was a humbling election for him. It helped him and his wife become closer to their religion and to each other.
read ... Southern Democrat
Telescope: Big Time Dollars at Stake
SA: ...Big-time federal dollars are at stake. The next big project on the summit after TMT is the $250 million Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer project that will transform the current 3.4 meter mirror at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope into a 10-meter mirror. The current footprint will accommodate the new mirror with only the existing dome expanding to within 10 percent of its size now.
"It's the most benign way to overhaul a telescope. There will be no concrete pouring, and most people wouldn't even know it would be a new facility," Simons said.
Also at risk, he said, is another major overhaul planned for the Subaru telescope, which is looking to take on a supporting role for the TMT.
"The lifeblood of these observatories is new instrumentation," he said, but all of that could be in jeopardy if the TMT doesn't go forward and funders lose confidence in Hawaii.
Simons said he's ultimately looking for some sort of community-embraced vision for Mauna Kea that is reflected in a new state Mauna Kea master lease, which is up for renewal in 2033.
Some TMT foes are already hoping to take aim at the lease, which, if not renewed to UH, will mean all the telescopes will have to come off the mountain.
"I'm playing long ball," Simons said. "I see TMT and the master lease as both requirements."
At the same time, however, he expects to see a major rewrite of the master lease in which the Native Hawaiian community not only participates in but drives the future of Mauna Kea....
read ... Big Time Dollars
DoTax Still Can't Deposit Tax Checks for Weeks
Shapiro: ...I've had issues with the state's laxity in cashing checks since the Cayetano administration, and it's discouraging to learn from June Watanabe's Kokua Line report Wednesday that little progress has been made in 20 years.
During Gov. Ben Cayetano's tenure, it was several fairly large checks I sent to a state agency that went uncashed for five months.
This was galling at a time of recession, when the state was running a $200 million deficit and initiating payroll lags to pay the bills....
Maria Zielinski, Gov. David Ige's tax director, described to Kokua Line a system in which overworked clerks with three balky scanners manually process 564,903 returns with checks, inexplicably keeping the check attached to the return until the end of the process instead of sending it out for immediate deposit.
In an age when electronic returns and checks can easily be sent and recorded instantly with no scanning or treks to the bank, Zielinski said "it's not an overnight solution" because of the decades of bureaucracy built up around data processing, scanning and cashiering.
If only it had been decades of keeping up with the times to solve a simple problem.
As an interim fix, Zielinski hopes to lease a scanner from the bank that would allow quicker electronic check deposits, but the logistics of even that could take months.
The broader concern is that a government that can't competently manage little tasks such as depositing checks will never get the big things right.
Until the civic culture prides sweating the small stuff over politics and bureaucracy, there will be no end of stories about bankrupt state hospitals, a state health exchange gone bust two years after receiving $200 million from Obamacare or massive Oahu rail cost overruns....
read ... HGEA Job Trust in Action
Castle High's "punks" are on the path to being proud cultural practitioners
SA: ...By linking classroom academics to real-world work tending lo‘i fields, rebuilding fishponds and re-creating their ancestors' techniques to make papa kui ai poi-pounding boards, students such as Pagaoa discovered a pride they had never felt.
"I got to learn a lot about our native culture, how our ancestors used to do things and how smart they actually were with the way they could engineer their land to produce their crops and how they got to make the fishponds where they could store fish," Pagaoa said. "It brought me closer to my roots."
Lea Albert, the state Department of Education's complex area superintendent, calls the Po‘okela Academy students "nontraditional learners."
The Po‘okela students have other ways of describing themselves: "Not a book learner." "More of a hands-on learner."
"Whatever we're taught in class, we're now learning in a way that we understand," said Braylyn Palencia, a 16-year-old sophomore. "It showed me my culture and the aina showed me who I am and where I come from. It's given me self-confidence. Our test scores — everything — have improved."
read ... New Generation of ...
Homeless issue demands action, not politicking
SA: Typical political reactions should not be in play when we are talking about hundreds and hundreds of people literally living on the streets. Yet Oahu taxpayers continue to be subjected to petty politics, especially at the municipal level.
The Honolulu City Council Budget Committee rejected Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s reasonable request to fund staffing for the fledgling Office of Strategic Development, tasked with fast-tracking development of affordable housing and units for the Housing First program, which shelters the chronically homeless.
The committee refused to restore $616,000 in funding for those seven contractual-hire positions in the $2.3 billion operating budget, but allocated $130,000 from its own Council budget to hire two homeless-housing experts to directly advise Council members.
The last thing this island needs is a turf war between the City Council and the mayor’s office over who gets to “solve” the homeless crisis. It is going to take all hands on deck — at the state and federal levels, too — working together toward lasting solutions.
read ... Homeless issue demands action, not politicking
In Tourism-Dependent Hawaii, Takai Against Obama's Free Trade Pact
SA: When people hear trade, what comes to mind is giving opportunity to businesses to export or to expand their enterprise into other markets. In Hawaii, where some of our important trade partners are involved in the TPP, it’s easy to understand why this is appealing. (But I'm against it anyway....)
Gabbard on Trade: Tulsi Gabbard's Cult Tied to "Billion Dollar Drug Empire"-- Funded Taliban
read ... TPP is a fast track to lower standards
A'ole TMT: Nothing could be further from the truth.
CB: ...It’s time we moved on past blaming the west for all that ails Hawaii.
A'ole TMT portrays Hawaiians as a threatened people being exploited by ruthless haole scientists. Nothing could be further from the truth....
By believing in such talk we resign ourselves to defeat. By giving into this way of thinking we are saying we are dumb, stupid, can’t help ourselves, can’t affect our own destiny.
This is what A’ole TMT wants the world to see and believe — that Hawaiians are too simple to understand science, advanced mathematics and technology. That we are indigenous people on the edge of extinction under the hand of ruthless white scientists who are desecrating sacred temples, duping us into contracts we don’t understand.
This is preposterous. Science is not white, it’s color blind; there are scientists all over the world in every discipline....
The rest of the world needs to know many of us don’t see ourselves as marginalized people, victims of the white man. We have moved on.
read ... Move On
UH: Aquarium Accreditation Not Worth Our Time
SA: We have urged Director Rossiter and the University of Hawaii to seek re-accreditation through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Rossiter unilaterally allowed the Aquarium’s accreditation to lapse in March 2005. It is our contention that Hawaii taxpayers should have assurance, through a comprehensive independent accreditation review, that the Waikiki Aquarium is being managed to professional standards in husbandry, education, conservation, research, finances, staffing, safety and more. We do not have that assurance now, and we have justifiable concerns for the safety of the animals and staff.
We were astonished when the University of Hawaii responded: “The certification process is labor intensive” and comes with costs that are not commensurate with the benefits. To the contrary, AZA accreditation offers professional improvement opportunities for staff, a greater opportunity to exchange animals, more grant opportunities, and credibility and assurance that professional standards are being met. The argument that AZA membership requires free admission for reciprocating institutions is false.
The curators who most recently served at the Waikiki Aquarium were all highly qualified and eager to serve at an institution that had an international reputation for innovation and excellence. Each of them was terminated abruptly and at great personal expense.
SA: Letter to UH Pres--'Aquarium suffers loss of cutting-edge research'
read ... Another Story from the University of Hawaii
Work furloughs are vital to successful re-entry of prisoners back into society
SA: Since March 2014, the Oahu Work Furlough Program had 355 participating inmates. Of those, 23 inmates — 6 percent — have deviated or walked away from the program. Each was returned without incident. None of them were accused of or charged with committing a new crime.
Four other participants — less than 1 percent — were charged with committing a new crime while on furlough during this time period....
read ... Winnowing Process
Mental health screenings could reduce hospital readmissions
CDB: The systems include Henry Ford, Group Health Cooperative, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, HealthPartners, Baylor Scott & White Health and Kaiser Permanente plans in Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Oregon and California.
The patients reviewed were diagnosed with the three medical conditions targeted by Medicare for readmission financial penalties. The three conditions are heart failure, pneumonia and acute myocardial infarction, or heart attack.
Mental health conditions included depression, anxiety, substance abuse disorders, paranoia and schizophrenia.
"It appears that mental health conditions may complicate the general medical conditions," Ahmedani said. "We believe these conditions are complicating the diagnosis and make it more difficult to heal."
read ... Crain's
Kauai Faces $9.4M Budget Hole Thanks to HGEA
KGI: The Kauai County Council wrapped up its decision-making process on Friday with a unanimous vote to cut $314,000 from the mayor’s proposed budget for the upcoming 2016 fiscal year.
And while councilmembers said the cut represents a positive step for a county government working to bring expenses in line with revenue, several expressed concern that they did not do more to reduce spending. The council’s cut only represents a 0.17 percent reduction from the mayor’s recently revised $182.2 million budget plan.
For comparison, the budget for the current fiscal year that ends on June 30 is $180.7 million.
“I’m a little bit disappointed,” said Councilmember KipuKai Kualii. “I thought we could have gotten a little bit further. We needed to get a little bit further so we can prevent more pain in the future.”
Even with efforts from the administration to rein in spending and the council’s additional cut, the county will still need to use $1.4 million of its reserve savings in order to balance the budget, largely to cover increased costs due to ratification of recent public employee collective bargaining agreements.
More worrisome, the county anticipates an $8 million budget hole looming ahead in the 2017 fiscal year, again due to collective bargaining agreements that will raise wages and benefits for public employee unions.
KE: Musings: Gone Missing
read ... Budget Hole
Hawaii One of only 5 States to Tax Lawyers
CCB: To lawmakers looking for revenue, lawyers and other highly paid professionals can be pretty attractive.
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has floated the idea of expanding the state's tax on services to include lawyers and others, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel argued during his re-election campaign that Springfield should extend the state sales tax to “dozens of professional services.”
Only five states tax professional services, as part of either a wider gross receipts or business and occupation tax. South Dakota, New Mexico and Hawaii tax gross receipts at rates of 4 or 5 percent, with local jurisdictions adding another 2 or 3 percent. Delaware taxes gross receipts that clear certain income thresholds at less than 1 percent, and Washington levies a 1.5 percent business and occupation tax.
Four of the states collected a total of $704 million from professional services in the most recent year for which data was available (either 2013 or 2014). Hawaii does not track revenue by industry.
read ... Crain's
Hawaii Mid-Term Election Voter Turnout 'Average'
SA: ...Hawaii ranked toward the middle of the pack in voter turnout, 32nd among all states plus Washington, D.C., with a rate of 36.5 percent of eligible voters casting ballots in November, according to the analysis by Boston-based Nonprofit Vote.
Indiana had the lowest turnout of eligible voters, 28.8 percent, followed by Texas, 28.9 percent, and New York, 29 percent.
Maine had the highest turnout at 58.5 percent....
The survey studied eligible voters — U.S. citizens over the age of 18 who meet the criteria to be able to cast a ballot.
In terms of registered voters — eligible citizens who take the extra step to register to vote — Hawaii set a record low with a turnout of 52.3 percent in 2014.
read ... Turnout